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David Mackay is gang tackled at training

We knew coming back today we’d have to have a hard session and the boys did pretty well

Brenton Sanderson was a notable absentee at Adelaide’s first pre-season training session of 2013, but any thoughts of the players taking it easy while the coach is away were quashed in a gruelling three-hour workout.

Sanderson, who married partner Veronika in her home country of Czech Republic last weekend, was afforded a few extra days of leave to stay in Europe for a whirlwind honeymoon, leaving the coaching duties in the capable hands of Mark Bickley and Dean Bailey.

The team endured a torturous return to training in searing heat on Monday. The players completed a combination of football and conditioning drills, finishing off the session with a series of repeat sprints.

Onballer David Mackay, who was a strong performer in the five-minute run, said the players had returned from the Christmas break in excellent condition.

“It was fun. The heat makes it pretty tough, but the boys had 17 days off over Christmas/New Year. We’ve had programs throughout that time which have been hard, but we knew coming back today we’d have to have a hard session and the boys did pretty well out there,” Mackay said after training.

“The break is a great time to go home, spend time with your family and refresh before the season starts, but at the same time it’s a crucial period particularly for any guys, who have had limited pre-seasons and need to catch up a bit.

“Fortunately, we haven’t got many of those guys in that boat … and everyone is in really good shape at the moment.”

Victorian-born Mackay returned to his native state for the break, but maintained fitness by training with teammates, who had also made the trip to Melbourne for Christmas.

“The players look out for one another and try to train together where we can,” he said.

“We’ve got a number of guys from Victoria, so they like to get together when they go back home and train together. It makes the training easier and you also get the quality of work, which makes it less of a shock when you get back to the Club.”

This pre-season is the first under new physical performance manager Nick Poulos.

Poulos, who joined the Club as strength and conditioning coach for the 2012 season, has replaced long-serving fitness guru Stephen Schwerdt. Mackay said Poulos had the players in good shape approaching the NAB Cup, which is now less than six weeks away.

“The program is much the same as last pre-season. Nick has put his own slant on training. He’s got great expertise in the strength and power side of the conditioning and we’ve just been trying to develop that over the last 12 months,” Mackay said.

“He’s been outstanding in making sure our guys are getting stronger and faster while at the same time still having the aerobic base you need for the game.

“We’re still working on our contested ball and our tackling is another area we’re really trying to improve. We’ve also ramped up the running. Having two or three weeks less of training compared to last year, we’ve had to squeeze a bit more in.

“It’s been a tough pre-season, but we’re in really good shape.”

Newlywed Sanderson will return to West Lakes next week.

“I haven’t heard from Sando … but I’m sure he’s having the time of his life over there,” Mackay said.

“It’s a little bit different him not being around, but he warned us he wasn’t going to be here. We’ve got ‘Bicks’, Scott Camporeale and Dean Bailey taking over, so there’s no shortage of coaches to run the show.”